It’s worth saying at the outset that this gig was originally slated to be at the much smaller Slade Rooms around the corner from the Wulfrun. It could never have taken place there. Not, unfortunately anything to do with the crowd. That would have just about filled the former, but rather it just would not have fitted physically.
Don’t believe me? The night ends with 11 of the world’s finest prog rock musicians onstage, two drum kits (and one of these belonged to Mike Portnoy) someone jumping off the speaker stack, someone else jumping out of a box all in one joyous finale. Not for nothing is this gig billed as Prog Rock Royalty.
The tale of how we got here begins some three and half hours earlier; When Swedish Prog masters The Flower Kings take the stage. Immediately kicking off with a 25-minute epic masterpiece in “Numbers” from their most recent album “ Banks Of Eden” their hour-long set is basically faultless.
They are far less po-faced than you might imagine too. Introducing the band, which includes a couple of Germans, front man Roine Stolt encourages to “not mention the war,” for example and throughout the exemplary playing, which also includes a stunning “The Truth Will Set You Free” they exude a happy, easy charm.
Indeed, so good were they that you did wonder if they might upstage the headliner. As it happened, not a bit of it!
Neal Morse, is a modern Prog Legend, his work in Spocks Beard and the supergroup Transatlantic affords him such status, and the fact that his band for this trek contains modern day marvel Mike Portnoy, who since leaving Dream Theater has managed to up his workload, only reinforces the thought that this evening is very special indeed.
Last year Morse released an astonishing record called “Momentum” (which, RTM, to its shame, didn’t hear until 2013) and it is the title track from that that kicks us off tonight. “Author Of Confusion” soon follows with its harmonies seeing all the band sing expertly, before Eric Gillette elevates the thing with a stupendous solo. Best of all, though is closing song “World Without End,” all 34 minutes of it in all its stunning glory.
How do you top that? Well with three members of Transatlantic in the room you play 45 minutes of their songs, with “Whirlwind” perhaps the pick, before the aforementioned jam closes the evening off.
The eponymous star is clearly enjoying himself, grinning throughout and even letting Portnoy play a touch of metal at one point. Morse’s songs deal with his spiritual beliefs, which makes him a rather incongruous listen for us. These are not views we share, or believe in for that matter, but he clearly has convictions and has crafted some absolutely magnificent songs to tell that story.
A quite joyous evening in all senses of the word and one of the gigs of the year.